I think that this book is an ideal starting point for those interested in learning about Chinese poetry and the culture that influenced it, because this book does not merely present a collection of any sort of Chinese poetry, but organises poetry into historical order, and includes a preface and introduction to each chapter explaining how the different dynasties (with their varying levels of stability), and the national faiths and philosophy, which were influenced by the ideals of Confucius, Daoism and Buddhism gradually over time, contributed overall to the Chinese poetic movements' evolving moods and works. Perhaps the most important aspect of Chinese poetry, which was probably overwhelmingly obvious but which I had at first found very surprising since I had considered before that poetry could be a medium to express balance and symmetry, was the Ying Yang philosophy, which demanded that poetry must have an evenly spread theme, so that each stanza balances the other and also that the poem has no more than a two-beat rhythm. To my surprise, such a technique did not cut out any emotion or reduce its meaning.
The Chinese tradition of simplicity in poetry was explained by the quote of Daoist philosopher Zhuangzhi, "The Fish trap exists because of the fish; once you've gotten the fish you can forget the trap...Words exist because of meaning; once you've got the meaning you can forget about the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?" In my new opinion, gained through a pair of eyes which had never seen this type of poetry before, simplicity and minimalism are very effective mediums to convey the message of poetry, because the meaning is not at all obvious upon quickly skimming the words. In order to fully appreciate the essence of the traditional chinese poem, a considerable amount of patience is required, as well as the ability to fully empty your mind of any cluttering thoughts from elsewhere, then enough imagination to venture into the poem, not with the fierce, bold attitude you would expect of a superhero but with the impersonified audacity commonly attribute to philosophers and followers of monasticism, then carefully visualise the results of doing so. I realised the constraints of following this process immediately, which somewhat made me less excited about reading the book. It left it for a couple of days before thinking, what exactly is my problem? Although reading the book took more time than I initially expected, the rewards that came with developing the skill of close reading of Chinese poetry seemed to me more than sufficient- at last I could understand the text in front of my eyes. As the author advises, " Sometimes we can't find it just by looking; we also have to see. Sometimes we can't find it just by trying; it comes to us while we're doing something else." In personal experience, the special meaning, ironically, all too often came when I was feeling my dullest- such as the flat languor everyone feels after a tedious day of work.